Jack Nunge led six Xavier players in double figures with 18 points as the third-seeded Musketeers eased past 11th-seeded Pitt 84-73 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday afternoon in Greensboro, N.C.
Xavier (27-9) advanced to its first Sweet 16 since 2017 and will face second-seeded Texas (28-8) in the Midwest Regional this week in Kansas City, Mo.
“It’s a group of guys that have fought to climb the mountain the last couple of years and pulled up short, and it’s just so rewarding to see our team, and them, finally get to the top,” Xavier coach Sean Miller said on the TV broadcast after the game.
Adam Kunkel went 5-for-5 on 3-pointers in the first half to score his 15 points, while Souley Boum tallied 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists for Xavier. Jerome Hunter added 14 points, Desmond Claude had 11 and Colby Jones went for 10 points and 14 rebounds.
The Musketeers’ high-octane offense tallied 22 assists on their 30 made field goals.
Pitt (24-12), which won a First Four game against Mississippi State and upset sixth seed Iowa State in the Round of 64, was led by Blake Hinson’s 18 points. Jamarius Burton added 16, and Guillermo Diaz Graham had 11 points and eight rebounds.
Xavier held Pitt to 6-of-20 shooting from 3-point range.
“I thought for most of the game we were very confident, not perfect, but we played a style of defense that we really set out to do against their 3-point shooting,” Miller said.
Xavier used a 14-3 run to turn a 15-14 deficit into its first double-digit lead with 9:30 left in the opening half. Jones, Nunge and Hunter combined to make six straight shots during the run; Hunter made it seven in a row with his short jumper before the Musketeers finally cooled down.
Kunkel took over during the final seven minutes of the half, hitting four of his five triples during that span. He punctuated a 12-2 Xavier stretch with a long 3, then gave the Musketeers their largest lead of the half, 48-29, with his final basket with 1:26 left.
Pitt trimmed it to 48-34 by halftime thanks to Nelly Cummings’ 3-pointer and Burton’s late layup. The Panthers got within 12 points twice early in the second half but could not get a 3-pointer to drop to help their cause.
Playing iso ball, Boum split two defenders, drove past a third and shot a layup over a fourth to ignite the crowd and deliver Xavier its largest lead at 74-54 with 7:22 to play.
The Musketeers then hit their coldest patch of the game, missing six field-goal tries in a row. This allowed the Panthers to forge a 10-0 run to slice the margin in half, with Hinson making their first 3-pointer of the half.
Nunge fouled out with 3:19 to play, leaving Xavier short-handed, and Greg Elliott hit a 3-pointer to get Pitt within single digits for the first time all half at 1:45. But Xavier was able to salt it away at the foul line from there.
–Field Level Media
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